Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
Jennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
This week, from 14 February to 20 February, is international children of alcoholics week, so it is a good week to raise matters that affect children in this way because of Covid-19. According to the independent research of the Silent Voices initiative, one in six children lives in a home with problem parental alcohol use. This has become much more of an issue in lockdown and I am deeply concerned about the continued closure of schools, a place where children affected by these matters could reach out to find support.
A study by Alcohol Action Ireland and University College Cork has reported an approximate figure of 200,000 children living in households seeing an impact from alcohol use, with a further 400,000 raised in homes where alcohol abuse was a feature. It recommends mandatory training in schools to recognise pupils experiencing these challenges at home but children are not in school now, so what is being done to support teachers working online or checking in once a week? How can they support these children and what plans are there to bring such support when the schools reopen?
There is also the question of funding for support services in the community. In the past I have raised how matters often cross Departments, and alcohol dependency and addiction, for example, can often cross into the Departments dealing with justice or housing matters. This week I was contacted by the Carlow Women's Aid, which is under pressure because of funding shortages. These types of service are vital for support when women are fleeing domestic violence. This is a major issue that has had an impact on so many families and people. All Departments should work together to find solutions. Other speakers and I have said that we might ring one Department for one matter and have to ring another when something else arises. With Covid-19 and the time we are in, all Departments must work together. I am seeking extra funds for Women's Aid in Carlow and we must support all these services.